Medical Assistant vs Nurse: Learn the Difference


If you have a passion for helping others, you may decide that a career in the medical field is a great fit for you. But with all of the different career opportunities within the healthcare field, how do you know which is the best option for you? Many people today find themselves faced with the tough decision to pursue a career as a medical assistant or as a nurse. The truth is, medical assistants (MAs) and registered nurses (RNs), oftentimes do work together in the same healthcare facilities. They are both responsible for providing invaluable healthcare and support to patients. However, prior to deciding which position is best for you, it’s best to learn the benefits and downfalls associated with each. From there, you can determine which career is best suited for you and your lifestyle!

Difference in Education

According to My Medical Assisting Degree, education is the primary difference between registered nurses and medical assistants. This is primarily because a medical assistant needs less time in a formal education setting than a nurse. For example, at Genesis College, a medical assistant school in Georgia and Tennessee, they offer students a hands-on medical assistant program that provides students both in-classroom and real-life experience through their classwork and externship opportunities. Each state is different, however, and to become a registered nurse, you must typically complete at least an associate’s degree, as well as complete the licensure requirements dictated by the state. However, many states have begun to require a bachelor’s degree after a certain period. The law states that registered nurses who only have an associate’s degree must complete their bachelor’s degree within 10 years of obtaining their initial registered nurse license. To become an RN, you also must successfully complete the NCLEX-RN exam.

The difference in education is typically what differentiates the medical assistant path from the registered nurse. Many people would rather jumpstart their careers as quickly as they can, and there is no better way to get started than by just diving in! Hands-on experience is the single best way to learn, especially in the medical field.

Duties of a Medical Assistant vs. Duties of a Nurse

Day-to-day responsibilities also vary between a medical assistant and a nurse. For instance, medical assistants work to record patient history and personal information. Other job tasks include measuring patient vitals, assisting physicians with patient exams, giving patients injections or administering medications, preparing blood samples for lab tests, scheduling patient appointments, and entering patient information into their medical charts.

As a registered nurse, however, the job tasks are a bit more involved. On a day-to-day basis, you may find yourself assessing patients’ conditions, administering treatments and medications, recording patient’s medical history and symptoms, consulting with doctors, operating and monitoring medical equipment, educating patients and their families on injuries and illnesses, prescribing at-home treatments and explaining what to do and not do at home after receiving treatment, as well as setting up patient care plans.

In other words, medical assistants are essentially the glue of the healthcare team. They work to complete the administrative and clinical tasks in the office. However, registered nurses work to provide and coordinate patient care. They educate patients on their illnesses and injuries and provide advice and emotional support to patients as well as their families.

Room to Grow and Change

Although there is a sense of flexibility in terms of both a medical assistant and a registered nurse, there are many flexible career options for medical assistants, which is why it’s one of the most sought-after fields to enter as a worker. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook is projected to grow over 23% throughout the next decade, which is significantly faster than the national average for other careers.

As a medical assistant, you may find yourself working to assist a registered nurse or a doctor in a hospital. However, they also may work for a gynecologist or obstetrics. They could work at a medical research center, or work to administer alternative medicine. There are so many different career opportunities for those working as a medical assistant that it provides room to grow and change. If you outgrow one position, there are several others within the field still waiting to be tried out. Working as a medical assistant isn’t just bound to a traditional healthcare facility or hospital. In fact, even insurance companies have begun to hire medical assistants to help with their administrative duties as well as processing insurance claims. Overall, although there is a sense of flexibility for both a medical assistant and a registered nurse, there is far more room for change and growth throughout your career as a medical assistant.

If you have a passion for helping others, a career in the healthcare field may be a great option for you. The first step is to decide which career path best suits you, your lifestyle, and your goals. There’s no time like the present. A career in the healthcare field awaits, so get started now!


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